November 9, 2009

PM under fire over Mamata's Naxal stance

Mail Today Bureau
New Delhi, October 30, 2009

Manmohan Singh's parrying of questions relating to Mamata Banerjee in Srinagar on Thursday afternoon was clear evidence that the government is no longer immune to the implications of a cabinet minister playing footsie with the Maoists. The Prime Minister was quizzed on Banerjee's reported remarks that there were no Maoists in the country. " I have not seen this statement. Obviously, the Maoist threat is a reality and the government is dutybound to deal with it," he said.
The PM then went on to stress that the Maoist issue had to be dealt with in a holistic way that included enforcing law and order and carrying out development in tribal areas. But the Trinamool Congress chief apparently has more pressing concerns than the government's discomfiture.The prime among them is the 37 assembly seats in the Maoistdominated Purulia, Bankura and Midnapore districts in West Bengal. Trinamool Congress is not the party of choice for the voters of this region.
However, the anti-Maoist offensive in Lalgarh has inflamed a suppressed ire against the ruling party, and Mamata is keen to harvest electoral benefits.So the railway minister refrained from categorically distancing herself from the radical outfit. Indeed, her initial response to the Rajdhani Express hijacking was to blame the CPM. " The Maoists have denied their involvement in the incident. It might have been done by CPM cadre," Banerjee had said in New Delhi. She also addressed those behind the abduction as " friends".
The CPM seized the opportunity to demand a probe into the train hijack and charge Trinamool with " patronising and protecting" Maoists. In an editorial in the party mouthpiece People's Democracy , the CPM asked the PM to explain the role of central ministers in this regard.Clearly conscious of the dangers of such accusations, it was left to P. Chidambaram to fight the CPM's offensive.
The Union home minister attacked the Left, saying that its leaders like Prakash Karat should first ask the West Bengal government about what was happening in the state.But his ministry asked the railway ministry to ensure that at least a dozen armed escorts are posted on all Rajdhani, Shatabdi and other superfast trains running through Naxalitehit areas. It also warned railways there were intelligence inputs about Maoists targeting more trains in the next six months.

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